Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wrong Priorities

Those who had expected yesterday’s hearing in the House of Representatives to bring closure to the wiretapping affair have been proven wrong. Various scenarios are peddled after former elections commissioner Virgillo Garcillano’s testimony at the lower house of Congress. According to one Liberal parliamentarian, the hearings are nothing but an exercise of obfuscation. His Party leader (and Senate President) Franklin Drilon argued that Mr. Garcillano’s testimony “has opened more doors rather than closed a chapter.”

The scandal is evolving to a seemingly endless affair. Now we hear the nation will be treated to three new tapes.

I spent Wednesday morning glued to the television set in our office in Makati City. I invited my colleagues to join, but they said they have more important things to do. After lunch, I had seen and heard enough. Probably the legalistic arguments and hairsplitting of lawyers turned politicians (or witness) had tired me. All the talk reminded me that, after all, this is primarily a legal issue. The alleged wiretappings and manipulations of the vote are criminal offenses. On the other hand, their politicization is a virtual guarantee that no final verdict may be expected any time soon.

Filipinos I talked to called the exercise in parliament a waste of time. Their frustration is based on the assumption that nothing (good) will come out of the process.

My personal frustration is different: Let the legislators investigate as much as they want. But at the same time they should not forget the root cause of the turmoil - the outdated electoral system which is open to manipulation and rigging. As I have argued in a commentary some months ago, the antiquated way elections are conducted in the Philippines, is the mother of all evil.

As long as the democratic state cannot safeguard clean elections, the sovereign’s will be at the mercy of so called operators and other criminal manipulators. The fact that the political class is collectively not pushing for electoral reform, indicates that in the end of the day many are comfortable with the status quo. Cynics may call this indirect collusion, I would prefer to speak of wrong priorities.

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